Expert systems for fault tree synthesis

  • Daniel J. Harris

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Hazard and operability (HAZOP) studies on chemical process plants are very time consuming, and often tedious, tasks. The requirement for HAZOP studies is that a team of experts systematically analyse every conceivable process deviation, identifying possible causes and any hazards that may result. The systematic nature of the task, and the fact that some team members may be unoccupied for much of the time, can lead to tedium, which in turn may lead to serious errors or omissions. An aid to HAZOP are fault trees, which present the system failure logic graphically such that the study team can readily assimilate their findings. Fault trees are also useful to the identification of design weaknesses, and may additionally be used to estimate the likelihood of hazardous events occurring. The one drawback of fault trees is that they are difficult to generate by hand. This is because of the sheer size and complexity of modern process plants. The work in this thesis proposed a computer-based method to aid the development of fault trees for chemical process plants. The aim is to produce concise, structured fault trees that are easy for analysts to understand. Standard plant input-output equation models for major process units are modified such that they include ancillary units and pipework. This results in a reduction in the nodes required to represent a plant. Control loops and protective systems are modelled as operators which act on process variables. This modelling maintains the functionality of loops, making fault tree generation easier and improving the structure of the fault trees produced. A method, called event ordering, is proposed which allows the magnitude of deviations of controlled or measured variables to be defined in terms of the control loops and protective systems with which they are associated.
Date of Award1990
Original languageEnglish


  • expert systems
  • fault tree synthesis

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